Welcome to October’s Progress Report, a monthly column dedicated to all forms of progressive rock. Each month we will highlight a few albums that intrigued us, disappointed us, or made us wish we had avoided them. Of course, don’t forget about the bigger prog releases that don’t hit this column, but rather get their own feature, such as Eversong and Opeth.
We have a truly international selection this month, with some worthy entries from the United States, Sweden, Germany, and Hungary, and there’s not a bad record in the bunch. Read on, and pick your poison (or check them all out).
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Blind Ego – Liquid (Gentle Art of Music)
RPWL guitarist Kalle Wallner has a side project, a prog metal band called Blind Ego. Why the guitarist of a prog metal band has a prog metal side project is puzzling, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Wallner has crafted an engaging album. Liquid is Blind Ego’s third record, first in seven years, and well worth the wait.
In keeping with the international flavor of this month’s column, Wallner employs a trio of vocalists from Sweden, the US, and the Netherlands, all to great effect. Music is perhaps most similar to Dream Theater but far more engaging and dynamic, ranging from quiet acoustic moments to grooving electronic/industrial to driving prog metal.
Noveria – Forsaken (Scarlet)
Italy’s Noveria bring some power metal spice to their progressive metal concept album, Forsaken. The theme on Forsaken is the states of mind of a fatally ill person. Each song reflects an aspect of the emotions felt as a young woman succumbs to cancer. This is Noveria’s second album, and the band shows a good maturity in their songwriting.
Noveria play an intricate and energetic form of prog metal, with a lot of bombast and drama. At times the songs can sound a bit generic, but the album as a whole is well produced and filled with engaging songs. And with subject matter a step above the usual sci-fi banter prog bands inundate us with, Forsaken is worth checking out.
Theocracy – Ghost Ship (Ulterium)
It’s been five years since we have seen a Theocracy album, but the boys from Athens, Georgia are back now with their fourth album, Ghost Ship. Theocracy are a Christian-influence prog metal band with their feet firmly planted in the Dream Theater realm of influence.
The songs on Ghost Ship are all uplifting, intended to buoy the spirits. But don’t let that fool you: these guys can play as heavy and hard as anyone out there, just check out “The Wonder if it All” if you need proof. Power-infused, Dream Theater-influenced prog metal with a positive message? You bet!
Thy Catafalque – Meta (Season of Mist)
Hungarian avante-garde/prog solo artist Tamás Kátai is back with Meta, a heavier release than last year’s Sgùrr. Kátai employs a number of guest musicians to bring Thy Catafalque’s vision to bear. At 67 minutes, Meta is the longest album this month, but the songs never wear out their welcome, even the 21-minute epic centerpiece “Malmok járnak.”
The music covers a wide range of genres, from ambient to electronica to folk to death metal, and does so with stunning effectiveness. Forget the fact that the lyrics are all sung in Hungarian: the songs on Meta are so engaging musically (and vocals performed so well) that language is no barrier. Ihsahn could learn a thing or two from Kátai when it comes to producing captivating, great-sounding albums.
Tid – Fix Idé (The Sign)
Tid (short for Time is divine) are an interesting Swedish collective. Formerly a metalcore band named Roswell, they have focused on elaborate, dark, dramatic movements that will remind listeners of movie scores. After a couple of EPs, Fix Idé is the post/prog metal band’s first full-length – although the six songs on Fix Idé clock in at a mere 28 minutes.
The music is ominous, filled with trance-like industrial loops and beats, vast washes of keyboards, and heavily processed distorted guitars. Vocals are hushed, whispered growls that make the proceedings even more eerie. Each song is more like an orchestral composition than a conventional song, with carefully planned arrangements and stellar production. Strangely, it all works, and Fix Idé is an album that despite its creepiness is hard to resist.
Watchtower – Concepts of Math: Book One (Prosthetic)
Watchtower are an interesting act. They released two prog metal albums in the 1980s (one of which, Control and Resistance, was inducted into Decibel Magazine’s Hall of Fame) and then pretty much disappeared off the face of the earth. They resurfaced in 2010 and over the last few years have released a handful of singles digitally. Those are compiled here on a mini-album, Concepts of Math: Book One.
It might be 2016 now but most of the music on Concepts of Math: Book One sounds straight out of the ’80s. The music is fast and intricate with serious jazz overtones, almost like organized chaos. The speed of the riffing and noodling puts Dream Theater to shame. The production of these cuts is very dated, but Alan Tecchio’s vocals are even more so. The man has a very ’80s thrash kind of voice, and that coupled with the frenetic sameness of the songs leads to this column’s only mild disappointment.